Ingalls Creek Traverse

Ingalls Creek Traverse

Ingalls Creek trail parallels a rapidly flowing stream that starts from Ingalls Lake and eventually empties into Peshastin Creek. The creek travels through a ravine which is flanked by the Stuart Range to the north and the Teanaway Range to the south. Despite the popularity of the Enchantments in the upland valley to north of the Stuart Range and the ridges of the Teanaway Mountains to the south, Ingalls Creek is somewhat forgotten. In my 8 years living in Washington, I have run the Enchantments three times and various routes in the Teanaway several dozen, including the Teanaway Country 100 miler. I typically utilized Ingalls Creek as a means to link up routes in the Teanaway. However, last summer, I decided to plan a run traversing the Ingalls Creek trail from the Peshastin Creek off highway 97 to Ingalls Lake and back. 

The trail starts at a small gravel parking area about a mile from the official confluence of the creeks. It is generally a fairly dry area situated on the east side of the Cascades with sparse tree cover and flora that prefers semiarid conditions. The trees in the first few miles of the route tend to be a mix of Firs and Ponderosa Pine with Western Redcedar hugging the banks of the creek. The understory is a combination of herbaceous plants and shrubs consisting of Snowbrush Ceanothus, Rocky Mountain Maple, Nootka Rose, Mariposa Lilly, Arrowleaf Balsamroot, Indian Paintbrush, and Bearberry. I started the run about 0511 under mostly cloudy skies with temperatures in the upper 50s. The creek was thundering down the valley and eventually the ever-present roar of the creek faded into the background and I was overcome with a sense of peace. After only 500 meters I passed by the sign denoting that I was entering the Alpine Lakes Wilderness portion of Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and I did not see a single person aside from my father until halfway through my return journey.

After starting the run at ~1980 feet, the route generally trends uphill to a highpoint at ~6000 feet. Given how dry the area gets by the middle of summer, I was surprised how green and lush my surroundings were. At about 4 miles into the traverse, the tree cover and understory changed drastically, and I felt as though I had teleported to the Issy Alps. I found myself in a dense stand of Western Redcedar, streams trickled in from the north and the understory was full of Oregon Grape and Ferns. This stretch of trail was short-lived and the trail once again emerged into an open sloping area to the north of Ingalls Creek. The understory was dominated by Snowbrush Ceanothus while the Firs and Ponderosa that survived past fires reached great heights. I knew that I would be passing a stream even before I heard the water because of the concentration of Quaking Aspen, Alders, and thickness of vegetation at my feet. 

From miles 6 to 12 I generally had views of the Stuart Range to the north and the Teanaway Range to the south. The beige flowers of the Ceanothus were on full display providing an impressive foreground to the towering mountains above. In addition to the Ceanothus and Aspen, the columnar purple flowers of the lupine, the dark red Twin Berries, and prolific green foliage of the Bluebells carpeted the landscape. As I headed west the scenery began to feel more familiar, at mile 10.4 I passed Fourth Creek trail, then at mile 12 I passed Beverly Turnpike trail. At mile 12.7 I nearly accidentally took Longs Pass trail for a few meters, probably due to my affinity for this trail and its views of Mount Stuart from Longs Pass. I did not push this run very hard because I was more focused on enjoying the scenery, however, between miles 10 to 20 there were about 18-24 downed trees to hurdle on the trail, so my pace was reduced even further. 

In the section of trail between Beverly Turnpike and Longs Pass trail junction, the trail passes under dense canopy again. This time, it is more dominated by large Fir trees and the understory is a little more sparse. After the Longs Pass trail junction, the gradient begins to steepen and around mile 14 there were some patches of snow on the ground. Also the weather began to turn, clouds rolled overhead and I felt a few drops of rain. I reached the trail sign which denoted the end of Ingalls Creek Trail, however, I wanted to see if there was an actual sign for the Ingalls Way junction, which travels up to the lake. I made it into the upland valley where there is a waterfall coming off the cliffs holding up Ingalls Lake. I enjoyed views of Ingalls Peak to the west and Mount Stuart to the north. However, much like anytime that I have descended from Ingalls Lake to Ingalls Creek, there appeared to be no official trail and I seemed to be aimlessly wondering in the alpine. Therefore, I turned back just shy of the lake at mile 14.7 (3:23) so that I would not make my dad wait forever for my return to the trailhead (I told him I would see him in about 5 hours). 

I pushed the pace a little more on the way back, but still took it fairly easy. I filled my bottles at a few creek stops and ate the remainder of my calories. I ran into a few more trail runners doing a loop. I stopped and took a photo of a young Larch, because it was the only Larch I found on the whole run. Then with a few miles to go I ran into the most hiker traffic I had seen all day. I finished up in a fairly decent pace, finishing the double traverse (29.35 miles) in 5:56:22. It was beautiful route and fairly well maintained given that it follows a creek bed and most of the middle section of this route is relatively unused. I consumed about 700 calories and drank about 2.5 liters of water. The weather was generally cloudy with moments of very sunny skies and even moments of rain. The temperature ranged from upper 50s to mid 70s. Throughout the double traverse I accumulated 29.35 miles and 5052 vertical feet. Perhaps one day I will try this route for speed. 

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